All Black set for remarkable recovery

2015-09-15 07:00
Waisake Naholo (Getty Images)

London - New Zealand's Waisake Naholo is on target to make a stunning recovery barely two months after a fractured leg was supposed to have ruled him out of the World Cup, with assistant coach Ian Foster saying on Monday he could be a surprise package.

The 24-year-old wing, the top try-scorer in Super Rugby in 2015 with 13 tries for the Highlanders, impressed for 50 minutes on Test debut against Argentina in Christchurch on July 17, doing everything but scoring a try before limping off.

At that point, Naholo's chances of making New Zealand's World Cup squad appeared to be at an end.

But the Fiji-born flyer was included in the defending champions' squad after a course of treatment which included returning home for the application of the kawakawarau leaf by his uncle, a local healer.

Now he is on course to be in contention for the All Blacks' match against Georgia, the third of their four pool fixtures, in Cardiff on October 2.

"It was just massages and some leaves on it," Naholo told reporters at New Zealand's hotel in London on Monday.

"That was pretty much it."

Asked if it had made a difference, Naholo said: "I think so."

He added: "It is coming along pretty good. It is on track."

Meanwhile Foster said Naholo's lack of Test rugby could work in the All Blacks' favour, although he stressed the player would not be rushed back.

"With the nature of the injury, it is not something you go out and jump in and go 100 percent at," Foster said.

"We have got another two-and-a-half weeks to get that right.

"I am pretty sure he will be quick. He has been training hard."

Asked if Naholo would have been scouted by opposition teams, Foster said: "We would have to assume they had a pretty good handle based on watching him play for the Highlanders... They would have learnt something.

"I guess what they won't know is what he does within our team and our structure and neither do we.

"He's only played 50 minutes, so we are excited to get him back on the park. He brought a really exciting skill-set to the game so we are looking forward to incorporating that into how we play when he's ready to go."

Perennial favourites New Zealand are bidding to win the World Cup on foreign soil for the first time, both their triumphs at the inaugural 1987 edition and in 2015 having come at home.

They begin their title defence against Argentina, a team they have come to know well from the Pumas' involvement in the expanded Four Nations tournament, at London's Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

New Zealand have never lost to Argentina, although they were held to a 21-21 draw by the Pumas in Buenos Aires back in 1985.

Naholo's debut ended in a 39-18 win for the All Blacks but last month saw Argentina beat South Africa, like New Zealand a longstanding major rugby power, for the first time with a 37-25 victory in Durban.

"Clearly Argentina are considered one of the favourites to go through from this pool," said Foster.

"It's going to be a big game for us. We've built up a lot of respect for them, having played against them regularly the last few years. It's never been easy.

"When you look at where they have come from, with their win against South Africa this year, they are a team that sort of grow and become more comfortable with what they do.

"It's certainly a massive challenge for us in week one. It's the best way for us to start, I think."

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